Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mini-Reviews: My Favorite Summer Reads

Since it's summer, and I'm currently obsessed with all things beach/ocean-related, I thought I'd do a post about my favorite young adult fiction summer reads. To clarify: These books don't necessarily take place during the summer, although some of them do. As long as they take place in the summer or are set at the beach/on the ocean, I'm including them on this list.

The Siren by Kiera Cass

I am obsessed with all things mermaids right now. This book is just beautiful, from the cover to the writing.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

I can't have a summer reads list without including Sarah Dessen. A lot of her books are set in the summer and/or at the beach, and while this isn't my favorite Sarah Dessen novel, it's my favorite Sarah Dessen novel that takes place both during the summer and at the beach.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I surprised myself with this one. I don't usually read fantasy, but I loved the cover and thought the story sounded good, so I decided to give it a try. The Girl From Everywhere will probably end up on my list of favorite books from this year. What I really love about it is that it can easily be a standalone, but it actually is the first book in a series. Initially, I wasn't too excited about that, but now that the cover of the second book, The Ship Beyond Time, has been revealed, I can't wait to get my hands on it. Just look at these covers (note: both images are from Goodreads)!

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

I also can't have a summer reads list without including something by Jessi Kirby. Moonglass is her first novel, and it is so, so wonderful. Crystal Cove is a beautiful setting, both in the book and in real life (confession: I went there just because it's the setting of this book). I've read it three times, and I fall more in love with Crystal Cove each time I read Moonglass. 

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Reason number one why I love this book: diversity! The narrator is from the Caribbean. Reason number two why I love this book: It's set in a beach town. I love books set in beach towns. Reason number three why I love it: The story is wonderful. It's hard to go wrong with Sarah Ockler, and this is probably my favorite book by her.

What are you favorite books that are set during the summer or that have a beach setting? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Brilliant Brontes: Shirley: An Industrial Strength Novel

Anne Bronte (1820-1849), Emily Bronte (Thornton, 1818 - Haworth, 1848) and Charlotte Bronte (Thornton, 1816 - Haworth, 1855), English writers, Oil on canvas by Patrick Branwell Bronte (1817-1848), ca 1834. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 Dec 2015. 

Charlotte Bronte wrote Shirley (1849) during the harrowing illnesses and deaths of her siblings Branwell, Emily, and Anne. Shirley is an industrial strength feminist novel set in Yorkshire during the turbulent year of 1811. Bronte's second novel confronts class divisions during England's Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The Luddite revolts in 19th-century Yorkshire consisted of English textile workers and weavers who feared that stocking and spinning frames and power looms threatened their livelihoods. Destroying threshing machines was a tactic Luddite's utilized in order to bargain with their employers. Some more peaceful textile workers organized structured societies to meet technological progress with provisions for unemployment, paid sick leave, and foreign influences against English interests. 

Charlotte Bronte's novel views this turbulence through the perspective of her main character Caroline Helstone, the mild-mannered orphaned niece of a terminally cranky pastor. Caroline was based on Bronte's sister Anne and Caroline's friend, the female landowner Shirley Keeldar was Charlotte's imaginative concept of  what her sister Emily could have been if she had been "placed in good health and prosperity".

Caroline's love interest Robert Moore is a harsh mill owner known for his coldness towards his employees. Robert lays the majority of his employees off, because his mill is in debt due to his late father's inefficiency and mortgages. Robert's older brother Louis becomes a private tutor, leaving Robert alone to turn their family's business around with the aid of new machinery which enables him to lay off even more employees. Angry, impoverished mill workers destroy his machinery in retaliation.

Shirley Keeldar is an independently wealthy heiress who lives with her devoted governess Mrs. Pryor. Caroline and Shirley's friendship is cemented in their desire to live meaningfully and help their destitute neighbors, who deteriorate into alcoholism and violence. Shirley becomes motivated to extend financial help the poorest of the poor and discourage attacks on Robert. Caroline is dismayed to witness Robert and Shirley's burgeoning friendship, which could become an advantageous marriage for both of them. In befitting Victorian fashion, Caroline becomes dangerously sick and is cared for by Mrs. Pryor, who reveals that she is Caroline's mother, who had escaped Caroline's abusive father. With the support of her mother, lovesick Caroline begins to recovery.

Deeply sensitive to her limited prospects, Caroline fears old maidenhood. Bronte's depictions of Victorian Spinsterhood are maddening and bleak. Despite Shirley's wealth and independence, she must also answer to her extended family, who wants her to marry well, despite her growing love for Louis Moore, the family tutor. Shirley's motives for helping Robert are also misconstrued by Robert, who proposes to Shirley in order to secure his dwindling fortunes. Shirley rebuffs him so harshly that Robert realizes that in order to regain his own dignity, he must be receptive to the idea of relinquishing his beleaguered mill and start over again, possibly in Canada, since the political climate makes it impossible for his mill to establish trade with America.
Ultimately, Robert is shot by his own laid off workers and has to recover at a friend's house. Gradually, Caroline and Robert re-establish their fractured friendship. The novel neatly ends with the respective marriages of Caroline with Robert and Shirley with Louis. However, by Shirley marrying Louis, she has to submit to her husband in all matters, even her own property, since women in that era were not allowed to own property.
The plight of women striving for meaning in a patriarchal society is captured in Bronte's depictions of disrespect incurred by spinsters, the emotional claustrophobia of young women waiting for their lives to begin through marriage and motherhood, and the disqualification of love as a deciding factor in most matches. 

Shirley was not as well-received as Jane Eyre, due to the sheer volume of this tome and the overblown, treacly prose. However, Bronte doesn't spare the clergy some judicious barbs in Shirley for their ineffectual ministering of mill workers struggling to survive a ruthless, changing world that threatens leave them. Social justice and romance make for an incongruous reading experience, but Charlotte's love and appreciation for her sister Emily shines through the complex and forthright character of Shirley Keeldar.

For further reading on the Bronte's world, The Public Library recommends:
Napoleon On War edited by Bruno Colson; translated by Gregory Elliott
Reading the Bronte Body [eBook] Disease, Desire, and the Constraints of Culture by Beth Torgerson                                    

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Siren Song of Life Beneath the Sea: Mermaids for All Ages

Sometimes, it must be said, mermaids are men. But most often they are women, and they are almost culturally universal: known as sirens, water spirits, selkies, ceags, they exist in the ubiquitous waters of our imaginations, and within our imaginations, under the churning sea. Complicated, fishy, witchy women, both lucky and unlucky. They save men and they destroy them; they make wonderful lovers and terrible wives.
~Lyz Lenz, "The Eternal Allure of the Mermaid"

Water is necessary, urgent, everywhere; it gives rise to life. It is also perilous, subject to its own laws, and contains dark and hidden depths... The myth of mermaids both explains and distances woman, that great and confounding mystery. And the appeal isn’t just for men; girls are drawn to mermaids’ wildness and beauty and power. After all, the sea creatures are the ones who get to decide if people who fall overboard will swim or sink.
~Lauren Groff, "Daughters of the Springs"

There are certainly a lot of people out there fascinated by the idea of mermaids. There are mermaid legends from around the world! Even in modern days, author Carolyn Turgeon has a blog called "I am a mermaid", and you can read her article "Neither Fish Nor Flesh" over at The New Inquiry. Entertainment Weekly called 2011 "The year mermaids swim into movies, books, fashion, and maybe your local swimming pool." You can read about "Becoming Mermaids" at the American Museum of Natural History website or as part of the Mariners' Museum's "Women & the Sea". You can have mermaids entertain you at your next party, or just go to visit the Mystic Mermaids in Denver, Canada's Halifax Mermaids, Aquarena Springs in Texas, the Austin Aquarium (Saturdays and Sundays only!), and "The Only City of Live Mermaids" in Florida - or take part in Coney Island's Mermaid Parade. (We also found a whole article devoted to "making your living as a mermaid".) There's even a Mermaid School, we've heard, and Mermaid Exercise, sometimes called "mermaiding." The National Ocean Service has a webpage called "Are mermaids real?"; Animal Planet's faux-documentary, Mermaids: The Body Found, was "Animal Planet’s most watched program until the sequel trumped it." There's a mermaid environmental movement. You can knit yourself a mermaid-tail blanket or adopt "mermaid style" for the times you need to spend outside the water - preferably while reading Mermaids and Mythology magazine.

Our own interest in mermaids began with reading Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" (though not fans of the Disney film) and seeing Copenhagen's famous statue, so we'd like to point out that the trend continues in literature. We've put together a list of mermaid fiction for all ages for those intrigued by the sirens of the seas. Sometimes the heroines of the tail (we couldn't resist!), sometimes a character in a larger story, we hope that these stories of mermaids don't send you off the deep end.

For Kids

The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull

The Mermaid's Shoes by Sanne Te Loo 

Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

Trouble at Trident Academy by Debbie Dadey [eBook] 

Kira's Quest by Orysia Dawydiak 

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler 

Above World by Jenn Reese 

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell 

Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Jasmine and the Treasure Chest: Mermaid Mysteries Series, Book 1 by Katy Kit [eBook]

Young Adult

Girl at the Bottom of the Sea by Michelle Tea

The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Ann Noble

Captivate by Vanessa Garden [eBook]

Cry of the Sea by D. G. Driver [eBook] 

Oceanborn by Amalie Howard [eBook]

Descending by Holly Kelly [eBook]

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown 

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
 Water by Natasha Hardy [eBook]

Into the Deep by Missy Fleming [eBook]

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter [eBook]

Just For Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

Emerge by Tobie Easton

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore 

Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs 


The Mermaid's Secret by Katie Schickel

Case of the Fickle Mermaid by P.J. Brackston

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent 

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn [eAudiobook]

Bay of Sighs by Nora Roberts 

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor 

For more mermaid tales, try a subject search of "Mermaids - Fiction". Read more articles about mermaids on Huffington Post! Also, check out this Cochiti potter's clay mermaid, for a bit of local flavor!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Speculative Fiction: Best Series by Women & Must-Read International

What is speculative fiction? One article says:

Speculative fiction is a term, attributed to Robert Heinlein in 1941, that has come to be used to collectively describe works in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror... Speculative fiction can be a collective term to describe works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror and also addresses works that are not science fiction, fantasy, or horror, yet don't rightly belong to the other genres.

Another says:
The term 'Speculative Fiction' was originally a "backronym" for the initials SF; at the time, during the New Wave Science Fiction movement of the 1960's, some writers felt that science fiction, or 'sci-fi,' was equated to flying saucers and rubber monsters, and wanted to distinguish themselves with a new genre label. ...Speculative Fiction can be applied to a work — correctly or incorrectly — in order to help it avoid the Sci Fi Ghetto; it can allow the more pretentious to believe that their favorite work is a proper 'literary' work with no connection to, and thus obvious superiority over that geeky science fiction or fantasy. 

We prefer:
Speculative fiction is a world that writers create, where anything can happen. It is a place beyond reality, a place that could have been, or might have been, if only the rules of the universe were altered just a bit. Speculative fiction goes beyond the horror of everyday life and takes the reader (and writer) into a world of magic, fantasy, science. It is a world where you leave part of yourself behind when you return to the universe as we know it, the so-called real world. Speculative fiction defines the best in humanity: imagination, and the sharing of it with others.

Margaret Atwood prefers the term "speculative fiction" to "science fiction" - you can read her reasoning in her book of essays, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. Her friend and fellow writer Ursula K. Le Guin argues for "science fiction" over "speculative". Yet another article has author Juliet McKenna using the term speculative fiction, but turning the debate upside down by making the case for it being "considerably harder to write than literary fiction." You can also see a definition of the genre (with a helpful Venn diagram) on writer Annie Neugebauer's website. Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know in the comments!

You can find some sci-fi and fantasy booklists in our Booklists for Adults and Teens LibGuide, but here are some recommended series by female authors and some must-read titles from around the globe for you!

Best Series Written by Women

Ursula K. Le Guin - Hainish Cycle
Start with: The Dispossessed

Lois McMaster Bujold - Vorkosigan Saga
Start with: The Warrior's Apprentice* [eAudioBook]

Octavia E. Butler - Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith's Brood)
Start with: Dawn [eBook]

C. J. Cherryh - Chanur series
Start with: The Pride of Chanur

Julie Czerneda - Night's Edge
Start with: A Turn of Light - Marrowdell

Madeleine L'Engle -Time Quintet
Start with: A Wrinkle In Time

Margaret Atwood - Maddaddam Trilogy
Start with: Oryx and Crake

Connie Willis - Oxford Time Travel Series
Start with: Doomsday Book*

*first available in series

Must-Read International Fiction
(mostly in translation)

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino [eBook]

The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abé [eBook]

Dendera by Yuya Sato   

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Ice by Vladimir Sorokin

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma

Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol

Zig Zag by José Carlos Somoza   

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
The Apex Book of World SF edited by Lavie Tidhar 


100 Must Read Works of Speculative Fiction in Translation [Book Riot]

8 Great Sci-Fi Series Written by Women, From Ursula K. LeGuin to Margaret Atwood [Inverse]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

How to Adult

What is adulting? The linguistics journal American Speech has offered up these definitions:
1. to behave in an adult manner; engage in activities associated with adulthood
2. to make someone behave like an adult; turn someone into an adult
The internet is full of adulting memes, from "Who do I speak to about quitting adulthood?" to "That horrifying moment when you're looking for an adult, then realize you're an adult. So you look for an older adult, someone successfully adultier adult," not to mention "Being an adult is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but every choice sounds terrible" and "So it turns out adulting is mostly just Googling how to do stuff" and "I have decided I no longer want to be an adult. So if anyone needs me, I'll be in my blanket fort...coloring." You can get stickers for your adulting achievements - "I paid my bills on time!" - and some places are offering adult summer camps with events like digital detoxes and throwback parties for those who want to escape the stresses of everyday life.

Author and adulting pundit Kelly Williams Brown has a blog wherein she takes you through the "steps" of adulting, which include Wear Your Stupid Seatbelt (#237), Your Stress is Not a Real Thing to Anyone But You (#228), Carry At Least $10 in Cash On You (#221), and Grocery Shop and Meal Plan Like a Champ (#173); they might not be the perfect ground rules for adulting, but, she says, "I can tell you that I feel more in control and more happy when I know I’m taking the small steps to assure that I am running my life in at least a semi-orderly way."

There's a strong backlash to the idea of adulting; journalists for Cosmopolitan and Jezebel have both spoken out against the trend. "'Adulting' implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up, but rather a life choice you're hesitant to fully buy into. It's a singularly Millennial — especially female, at that — immaturity that reduces being a grown-up to a hobby," fumes Danielle Tullo.  Madeleine Davies scolds:
Adulting is a term most often used when a person fulfills a basic prerequisite of adulthood and wants to feel special—or, worse than that, be charmingly self-deprecating—about it. We can all recognize that being an adult is hard. We can also recognize that there are legitimate challenges to modern adulthood that didn’t exist 50 years’s time to put aside your need to feel special and praised and simply do your adult diligence without putting a cute word on it. Pay your bills, clean your rented apartment (because you’re too poor to own, obviously), and show up to work on time. Or don’t, and face the consequences.
There are some wry internet memes that express this viewpoint, too, like "Adulting just means taking care of yourself so an actual adult doesn't have to" and "Another fine day ruined by responsibility."

What's your take on adulting? Journalist Christine Birkner admits "Every generation has, to some extent, felt like it's faking it at grown-up life," which we totally agree with. Do you think adulting is limited to millennials, and mostly female millennials? We could argue that every generation has had its "adulting" dropouts, it's just that it's never been talked about so much - we've met plenty of folks over the years (men included) whose mothers bought their clothes or did their laundry long after they left home, and who could have used some tips on how to "adult" on their own. It seems like millennials do like to feel "special", but sometimes it's a relief to find out that you're not alone, not the only one who can't get your finances together or who needs an incentive to eat right and exercise or who is not Julia Child in the kitchen. There's things about adulting that are too cutesy, or just trying to sell us more stuff, but we like the idea that we're in this together, trying to make sense of this world, even if we don't feel as together about growing up as our parents made it look.

Here's a few books about adulting from the library catalog - some offer more guidance and some more laughs, so we've split them up accordingly.

How-To Guides

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown

Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood by Alida Nugent [eBook]

Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up by Grace Helbig

The Funny Side of Adulting 

The Worrier's Guide to Life by Gemma Correll 



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Circulating Titles - Genres Part Two

The Yellow Books, 1887 . Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 18 May 2016.
“Knowledge is like money: To be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.”
― Louis L'Amour, Education of a Wandering Man  

In the library, "circulation" means a lot of things.  What's sometimes called the "library card desk" is also known as "circulation".  When we look at a book's record, we count how many times it has checked out as its "circs". The library's collection floats (items checked out at one branch and returned at another stay at the branch at which they are returned), but its items circulate.

For this second genre post, we've chosen to feature the top circulating adult books system-wide from three fiction genres, as of July 8, 2016. Mystery still holds its own as the most popular genre in the top circulating fiction books system-wide, but we found the top ten for a couple of other genres - although two of those genres seem to be dominated by one or two (and in one case, related) authors!

Top Circulating Horror Fiction

1.  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
2. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
3. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
4. Revival by Stephen King
5. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
6. The Fireman by Joe Hill
7. The Shining by Stephen King
8. Night Shift by Stephen King
9. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
10. Lost Souls by Seth Patrick

Top Circulating Western Fiction

1.  The Collected Short Stories by Louis L’Amour
2. Hard Country by Michael McGarrity
3. The Revenant by Michael Punke
4. Wild Cowboy Ways by Carolyn Brown
5. Great Train Massacre by William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone
6. Sixkiller, U.S. Marshal by William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone
7. Winchester 1887 by William W. Johnstone
8. Vengeance of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone
9. Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack by Robert Knott
10. The Trail to Crazy Man by Louis L’Amour

Top Circulating Science Fiction

1.  The Martian by Andy Weir
2. Transgalactic by James Gunn
3. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
4. The Orion Plan by Mark Alpert
5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
6. A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
7. Poseidon’s Children by Alastair Reynolds
8. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
9. Visitor by C. J. Cherryh
10. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood